Courtney Francis, alumnus, BSc (Hons) Learning Disability Nursing
While working as a domiciliary care worker, Courtney Francis found that he particularly enjoyed his experiences of working with people with neurological issues or conditions such as autism. For that reason, when it came to pursuing his dream of becoming a nurse, he decided to specialise in Learning Disability Nursing.
“I had a really positive experience at my interview,” says Courtney. “The lecturers took my personal needs into consideration, which made me feel equal. I was confident I would be taught by a team of professionals.”
After starting at the University, Courtney soon found just how supportive the environment at LSBU can be.
“A psychologist linked to LSBU discovered I had dyslexia,” he says. “I was immediately provided with a detailed report, and given advice on how to achieve my full potential – both at university, while on placement, and eventually within the workplace.”
It’s all part of what Courtney feels was one of the most enjoyable elements of his degree – the team ethos.
“Studying Learning Disability Nursing was an amazing journey,” he says. “I was studying alongside people from a range of cultures and backgrounds, and it felt like I was part of a family.”
As part of his degree, Courtney undertook a number of placements – another experience he took great satisfaction from. “I worked in two different learning disability community teams in my final year,” he says. “One was with the NHS and one was with a Local Authority – seeing both environments gave me a good idea of the role of a community nurse.”
While on placement, Courtney managed a caseload and worked autonomously to carry out nursing assessments and creating person-centred care plans. “I learned that I still had room to grow as a professional,” he says. “The bar kept on rising but I felt encouraged to improve myself and to secure better health outcomes for those who I had the privilege of working with.”
Courtney’s fondest memories of his placement were when his efforts to offer those positive outcomes were noticed by his patients.
“On one occasion, a patient’s family member went out of their way to find me and write in my practice booklet because of the empathy I had shown for her mother,” he says. “On another occasion, I received a personal handwritten letter to say thank you. That feeling of making an impact on people’s lives is absolutely priceless.”
Training and resources
After graduating, Courtney secured a role as a GP Liaison/Learning Disability Nurse at Newham Health Team for People with Learning Disabilities.
“I manage a caseload of clients in the community, most of whom have moderate to severe learning disabilities and complex health needs,” he says. “I also work with local GP practices to promote equitable healthcare for people with learning disabilities, and to provide training and resources for dealing with complex clients if needed.”
Courtney feels that his role requires him to use a lot of the skills he developed as part of his degree, and he feels his future plans will build on them even further.
“I want to formulate an evidence-based desensitisation programme for people with anxieties about healthcare interventions,” he says. “Many people with learning disabilities do not receive treatments that would improve their quality of life and I want to change that. All the role models I had at LSBU have influenced the work I lead on, and I have them to thank for my successes.”
To those considering a degree in Learning Disability Nursing, Courtney has some simple yet powerful advice.
“Go in with an open mind,” he says. “Take advantage of the learning opportunities at your disposal and always remember that it is a service, with your clients, patients or service users at the centre.”